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EDITORIAL: Crack down on bad driving

Barbados Nation

EDITORIAL: Crack down on bad driving

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IN RECENT YEARS, both police and the insurance sector have been drawing public attention to the disregard an increasing number of Barbadians appear to have for the requirement that all vehicles being operated must be licensed and insured.

It is not hard to understand why this would be a major source of concern. In addition to denying the Treasury of much needed finance, it exposes countless innocent Barbadians to financial ruin when their vehicles are damaged or written off or, even worse, when they are seriously injured and there is no insurance coverage to assist during the extensive difficult period that could ensue.

We support the crackdown of authorities on people who engage in this practice and we suggest it is time for the impounding of vehicles of repeat offenders or people who have been driving such unlicensed and uninsured vehicles for two or more years.

But serious as this situation is, it is only the tip of a very dangerous iceberg we have been noticing of late. To be blunt, our highways and byways have become havens of indiscipline for many users, and the culprits are not just the reckless and inconsiderate public service vehicle drivers or the “wheelieing” motorcyclists we so often highlight.

It is not uncommon now to see adults properly strapped into their seats while their toddlers stand between the seats or scramble around in the rear, in contravention of traffic laws and exposed to mortal harm. We have noticed too that the morning commute for so many has become an extension of breakfast time, and motorists eat and drink while driving – at times even engaging in telephone conversations that don’t utilise hands-free devices.

And in the same way that the commute now includes breakfast, it also incorporates personal grooming – everything from simply applying lipstick or make-up while looking in the mirror to using a hot curling iron while at the controls of a vehicle in moving traffic.

Lunchtime, however, takes the cake – literally. Our male drivers in particular appear to have mastered the art of holding a Styrofoam container filled with food in one hand while controlling the eating fork and steering wheel with the other.

Then there are the hazards of driving during or after sunset, because of the apparently ingrained belief among Barbadians that consuming large volumes of alcohol has no negative impact on the ability of a Bajan to drive safely. We are killing and maiming ourselves and our neighbours daily and pretending that alcohol consumption does not play a part.

Add to all that the fact that we now park anywhere as well. The only thing that matters in selecting a parking spot is its proximity to where we are going. Sidewalks, corners, junctions, the driveways of others are all fair game. And when stopping is not a problem for many of us, then going is, because red lights and stop signs have the same significance for many drivers as the red cloth of a matador facing a bull in the arena.

Assuming a green light is safe when you are the first in line at a traffic signal-controlled junction can be a fatal or life-altering mistake in Barbados these days.

Our roads have become increasingly dangerous because of the way we use them, especially when considered against the backdrop of their deteriorating physical condition.

We urge Acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith and his high command to institute a comprehensive, sustained islandwide crackdown on motorists who engage in these practices. The more we allow road users to believe they can get away with their dangerous and illegal acts, the more we are going to suffer. It’s time to take back our streets.